Tuesday, August 21, 2007


How do you read a book? I mean, do you start from the beginning or go directly to the main story, skipping introduction, prelude or preface etc?
I have this habit of reading almost everything from the cover. I start with the details that they give on Page 2 or Page 4 or 6 about the book’s editions and publication. This I read because it gives me fairly an idea as to how many times the book has gone for reprint, and how many years after the book was first published that I am reading it. Then comes the dedication, this I will come back again later. Then I read the acknowledgements, if they are put in the beginning itself and glance briefly at the Table of contents, if its there and move to the introduction. Introduction can vary from 2 pages to 30 pages. When I completed reading the intro to The Decline and Fall of Roman Empire I was definitely not in the mood to proceed with the main text. It was not boring, but rather tiring. But I never skip reading the Prelude. Its like a warm-up session before the match. It tunes the mind towards the main contents, so I never leave out this section.

If at all I skip anything it’s the blurb with pieces, from Newspapers to unknown names praising the author and appreciating the book. Usually this is put on the back page of the book, but sometimes they are inserted even before the Preface. It’s a marketing technique I guess. I don’t find it to be a refined way of winning readers. Anyways I don’t read them.
What I wanted to write about was Dedications. This practice of dedicating a labour of love to a loved one (in most cases) is quite amusing. It lets the reader peep into the private life of the author, I mean one would know who is so important in the author's life from the dedication. This can change from book to book like in Naipaul's case.

Why I wanted to write about Dedications was George Bernard Shaw’s Epistle Dedicatory to Arthur Bingham Walkley in the play Man and Superman. It’s a more than 30 pages dedicatory in which Shaw not only talks about why and how of the Play but also comments on the man-woman relationship in the modern times. I won’t pretend to have understood everything that he has said, because many of the lines are written tongue in cheek and without the complete idea of the Time and the context in which they were written, I guess it is difficult to understand the total significance of his observations. The dedicatory is cerebral in the sense that it can be published as an essay.
Usually a book is dedicated to a spouse or a companion (in most cases the names are indicated in initials or only the first names are given) or father or mother or both or friends.
I have here compiled few dedications from my collection that I thought were little different from others.

K Rajarao- Kantapura
To my friends
Subhu and Ramachandra, Jaganathan, Krishnamachari, Narendra

Note: This is interesting because of the word Satyagrahis. It gives the scent of freedom struggle, right!
Gustave Flaubert- Madame Bovary
To Marie-Antoine-Jules Senard
Member of the Paris Bar Ex-President of the National Assembly, and Former Minister of the Interior
Dear and Illustrious Friend, Permit me to inscribe your name at the head of this book, and above its dedication; for it is to you before all, that I owe its publication. Reading over your magnificient defence, my work has acquired for myself, as it were, an unexpected authority. Accept then, here, the homage of my gratitude, which, how great soever it is, will never attain the height of your eloquence and your devotion.

N: The author signs of this letter dated 12 April 1857. It, in a way hints at the turbulances that the author had to undergo because of the book
E M Forster - A Passage to India
To Syed Ross Masood and to the seventeen years of our friendship

N: For obvious reasons this is included:-)
Arundhati Roy- God of Small Things
For Mary Roy who grew me up,
Who taught me to say ‘excuse me’ before interrupting her in public
Who loved me enough to let me go

For LKC, who like me survived
Dominique Lapierre - City of Joy
To Tatou, Gaston , Pierre, Francois James and
To the lights of the World and of the City of Joy

Dante – The Divine Comedy
To the Dead Master of the Affirmations –Charles Williams

Note: I really do no have an inking as to who this Charles Williams was. But the expression Dead Master of Affirmations caught me!! Of the 3 parts of TDC, the one with me is Hell. Isn't it an irony!
Robin S Sharma- The Monk who sold his Ferrari
To my son, Colby, who is my daily reminder of all that is good in this world. Bless You.

Note: This book, which I never completed for I found it phony,but the dedication is so genuine.
Gary Zukav - The Dancing Wu LI Masters
This Book is dedicated to you, who are drawn to read it.

Shashi Tharoor – India: Midnight to Millenium
In loving memory of my father
Chandran Tharoor
Who taught me to believe in 'an India for Indians'
This book is dedicated to my mother
Lily Tharoor.

There are many more dedications like Bertrand Russel’s to Edith in An Autobiography. The dedication was in fact a poem which had moved me completely when I read it long long ago, but cannot recall it now.
While we are still at it, I have dared to imagine the dedications that the authors ought to have given!!

Margaret Mitchell -Gone with the Wind
To All the carpetbaggers and scallawags,
who made it possible for us to sing
Old South is dead; Long live Old South
P Sainath -Everybody Loves a Good Drought
To The Centre and State Governments for forgetting that Agriculture is not substitutable
And to the astute Indian Mind which finds ways to feast on poverty.
Salman Rushdie -Midnights Children
To the British Government for choosing that hour to transfer power to India, which has made all the difference.
Dan Brown -The DaVinci Code
To the Vatican for making it possible*

* Read between words
Paulo Coelho -The Alchemist
To The Competitive age which undermines the Individual.


Atoorva said...
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Atoorva said...

I liked Arundhati Roy’s dedication….another of my favorite is form The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint ExupĂ©ry

I ask the indulgence of the children who may read this book for dedicating it to a grown-up. I have a serious reason: he is the best friend I have in the world. I have another reason: this grown-up understands everything, even books about children. I have a third reason: he lives in France where he is hungry and cold. He needs cheering up. If all these reasons are not enough, I will dedicate the book to the child from whom this grown-up grew. All grown-ups were once children--although few of them remember it. And so I correct my dedication:


The dedication which takes the cake is one written by William Hogarth in 1753. It took him so long to finalize it that he never finished the work for which it was intended  :

"The No-Dedication, not dedicated to any prince in Christendom, for fear it might be thought an idle piece of arrogance, nor dedicated to any man of quality for fear that it might be thought too assuming, not dedicated to any learned body of men, as either of the Universities or the Royal Society, for fear that it might be thought an uncommon piece of vanity, not dedicated to any one particular friend, for fear of offending another; therefore dedicated to nobody; but if for once we may suppose nobody to be everybody, as everybody is often said to be nobody, then this work is dedicated to everybody. By their humble and devoted, William Hogarth."

Another casualty in a dedication( for a change in the field of music not books) was by Beethoven, who dedicated the Eroica symphony to Napoleon Bonaparte, but later, having lost faith in his hero, withdrew it.
Great post....keep it up!

alice said...

Thats hilarious, he wrote the dedication but didnt have anything to dedicate..hahaha.
Nevertheless a fine dedication. It reminded me of Amartya Sen's intro to his last name viz S for Somebody, E for Everybody and N for Nobody...
Hey thanks for the info..

Parineeta said...

Lovely post, Alice, keep it up!
BTW, heres a dedication by your creator, Lewis Carroll:
To a Dear Child:
In Memory of Golden Summer Hours
And Whispers of a Summer Sea